Earth Day was the brainchild of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, who started Earth Day in 1970 as a way to get schoolchildren to become involved with the environment. Thirty-five years later, Earth Day is observed around the world every April 22. The theme for this year is "Protect Our Children and Our Future," with a focus on educating America about the health and environmental benefits of choosing organic products.
The products of organic farming are free from most synthetic pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics. That's not to say, though, that organic farmers let bugs infest their crops and leave their livestock vulnerable to disease and parasites. Rather, they incorporate biological methods, like the use of one organism to suppress another, to help control pests. Their livestock is fed a natural diet, so you won't run the risk of contracting Mad Cow Disease from eating an animal that ate diseased meat by-products. (Does anyone else think it's disgusting that some beef cattle are fed "ruminant protein"? That's like eating your own cousin.)
You don't have to be an environmental scientist to recognize that being free from pesticides is a good thing. Exposure to pesticides can cause developmental problems in infants and children and can increase the incidence of leukemia, lymphoma and cognitive disorders. But humans aren't the only living things adversely affected by pesticides — and I'm not talking about the targeted pests. An estimated 67 million songbirds are killed each year in the US from agricultural pesticides. Waterways and water resources become polluted by pesticides that run off farmland, and that contributes to the deformation and/or demise of fish and other aquatic life. The use of chemicals may seem to increase farm productivity, but we are seeing more and more that the long-term effects are extremely damaging to us and to the world around us. The methods used in organic farming seek to increase soil fertility, balance insect populations, and reduce air, soil and water pollution — all with the goal of sustaining the earth's natural resources and helping us lead healthier lives.
Observing Earth Day is a good way to remind us to consider the impact our choices make every day. This month, Talley's Green Grocery on East Boulevard is featuring a display of grocery bags decorated with Earth Day designs by students from the Northwest School of the Arts as part of a global environmental awareness project. Talley's is also participating in "Go Organic for Earth Day," a national program to promote organic foods. Their Earth Day attitude continues with a free food tasting fair on Saturday, May 7, when you can try environment-friendly, certified organic foods. Earth Fare, the new "healthy supermarket" in Ballantyne, has some events on Earth Day (this Friday) — the store employees are doing a cleanup at Sugar Creek Greenway from 1-4pm, there'll be a free Grilled Organic Veggie BBQ from 5-6pm, and you can learn how to start your own organic greenhouse from 6:30-7:30pm. Earth Fare also has ongoing programs that encourage environmental and health-conscious choices.
So pick up something organic from Talley's, Earth Fare or your neighborhood natural food store — even the organic food section of your regular supermarket — and celebrate Earth Day, the environment and a healthier you!